I am updating this review constantly so check back every so often to see any additional updates or new material has been added to this review. Also any new links are posted in the first comment following this review.
I have posted a PDF file with all the tips and tricks and important information about this camera on page 68 and comment 672 (2nd one down on page 68) of the comments section following this review. There is a Table of Contents to easily find pages for a variety of topics. The Custom settings are in the PDF on pages 34-36. It makes all the difference in this camera. It will shoot well in low light areas using the CUSTOMIZED settings. Get it and print it out for future reference!
The comments about this camera not working well in low light in video and in photos is over. It is just a matter of changing the settings in the camera. It does much better in lower light now. See comments 627 on page 63 of the comments following this review! The comments area in general is packed with good information about tips for better shooting and products to buy to make the process better. Check them out!
First, let me tell you I have read every single review about this camera on the Amazon website. I was torn between this camera and the Canon SX30IS 14.1MP Digital Camera with 35x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 Inch Wide LCD
and the new Fujifilm FinePix HS20 16 MP Digital Camera with EXR BSI CMOS High Speed Sensor and Fujinon 30x Wide Angle Optical Zoom Lens
. I also looked at the Fujifilm FinePix HS10 10 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 30x Wide Angle Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD
, but didn't like it because after the picture was taken it takes 3-4 seconds to process before another picture can be taken. I currently own the Panasonic DMC-FZ35 as well, and used it as a comparison camera with the DMC-FZ100. I am still in the process of comparing photos of both cameras with the settings exactly the same, and so far the FZ100 wins.
This camera has a an excellent 25mm Ultra Wide-Angle Lexica DC Vario-Elmarit lens w 24X optical zoom, high speed Venus Engine 3 core processor, full HD movie recording at 1920 X 1080 resolution at 60 frames per second, High Speed Video recording at 220 frames per second, the fastest level of burst shooting of any bridge camera at 2,5,11 (2, 5,and 11 fps at full 14mp resolution),40, and 60 fps, shutter release lag of 0.008 seconds (WOW!), 14 mp resolution, and the camera's quick response makes it easier to capture sudden, spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities together with the Sonic Speed AF (auto focus). Thanks to newly incorporated Intelligent Resolution technology, with the Intelligent Zoom turned on, the DMC-FZ100 has a camera zoom range of 1 - 32X, or a 35mm camera equivalent of 25-780mm at maximum 14mp picture size! No one makes a camera like this one! No one even comes close!
I have been in photography for many years. I've done wedding photography and sold some of my photos on line and to some local shops. I had a photography studio in my basement. I currently use a Nikon D90 as a DSLR camera. I enjoy the ease of taking a bridge camera with me instead of hauling the huge camera and bag full of lenses. I use the Panasonic cameras strictly for taking photos for myself as the quality is not the same as with the Nikon D90. Don't get me wrong. It takes a great picture! But you just can't compare a bridge camera to a DSLR. You can't compare the price either. MY D90 cost me almost $1000 and the lenses are just as expensive. Some cost way more than the camera body. Have you bought a 25-780mm lens for a DSLR camera lately? If they were available they would cost thousands of dollars! That's the lens equivalent of the Panasonic DMC-FZ100 with I-Zoom ON!
The Panasonic DMC-FZ100 is getting a lot of negative reviews about picture quality. I decided to buy the camera anyway and see if it could be useful to me. I liked the 35X zoom of the Canon SX30IS, but there are lots of negative reviews concerning its picture quality as well. The Panasonic DMC-FZ100 has many qualities and features that puts it above the Canon, but the 35X really pulled on me. I will explain the qualities of the FZ100 in a minute. The new Fujifilm Finepix HS20 really caught my eye! The main reason I decided against that camera is the zoom is manual and the price tag is much higher than the FZ100. The zoom being manual makes any video jerky while it is being zoomed. I looked at some of the videos taken with it on YouTube. Just do a search on that site.
The PDF manual for this camera can be downloaded from the Panasonic web site. Just do a search for it in Google. I put the link for the PDF in the comments section in case you want to download it.
I gave the camera an in depth checkout and came away totally pleased with it. Let me tell you all the benefits and features of this great camera:
What I like:
It has threads for filters. It takes a 52mm filter and they are readily available. Zeikos makes a 52mm polarizing filter Zeikos ZE-CPL52 52mm Multi-Coated Circular Polarizer Filter
. I bought one for my FZ35 a while back. I also bought a more expensive Hoya polarizing filter and cannot see any difference between the Zeikos filter and the Hoya filter. Save your money and get the Zeikos.
The lens hood is included and uses a slot instead of screwing on. It is much faster to install or remove.
Some of the above cameras charge extra for the lens hood.
The camera takes JPG or Raw pictures or Both.
In the Video Mode, single still pictures or burst pictures can be taken just by pressing down on the shutter release button while taking the video. It takes a 3.5mp picture or pictures, up to 40 per video. To set up the burst mode just select it on top of the camera next to the main dial and set it up before taking the video. Page 110 in the manual.
In the Video Mode you can normally zoom to 24X. However if you select and turn on I-Zoom the camera will zoom to 32X. I-Zoom gives you 1.3X the normal zoom. The setting also gives you 32X in the Picture Mode (at 14mp picture size). It makes the camera in both picture mode and video mode equivalent to a 35mm camera 25-780mm lens! The picture quality in video or photo is not diminished in this mode. It says it on page 58 and 145 in the manual.
To turn I-Zoom on, just go to Menu, REC MENU, Page 3 (Change pages up by moving the zoom switch right, and down by moving the zoom switch left) , select I.R I.Resolution, then select I Zoom. After that, when using the Video Mode, instead of zooming to 24X, the camera will zoom to 32X. In the picture mode, the zoom goes from 24X in the 14mp Mode to 32X. If you set the camera in the 10mp picture size, the zoom goes from 24X to 37.9X. Now the camera is actually zooming in more than the Canon SX30IS! The best part! Using the I Zoom and Extended Optical Zoom does not degrade picture quality at all! Go to the manual on page 58 and 145. It tells you that right in the manual!
I-Zoom = Multiplier of 1.3X
Extended Optical Zoom with I-Zoom ON
14mp = 32X
10mp = 37.9X
7mp = 45X
5mp = 54X
3mp = 67.4X
I used the camera at 3mp (67.4X) with the Olympus 1.7 teleconverter to get a total zoom of 118X, and took a picture of the moon with just a monopod. It filled the whole screen without cropping. It can be seen at the web site listed in comments. The picture looks great! I will be taking another with a tripod when the moon is full, and will post it as well.
The camera has a live Histogram which the FZ35 has as well. To turn it on, go to MENU, SETUP, Page 3, HISTOGRAM, and turn it ON.
The camera will take 5 quick flash shots! To do that, just put the top main dial to SCN Mode, and select FLASH BURST, which is on the second row! The FZ35 does that too. While we are in the SCN Mode, in a dim setting like inside at night, select the CANDLE LIGHT Mode, It really brightens up the picture! Better yet, at night in tough lighting, select iA Mode (Intelligent Auto) with the camera main dial. It does a great job in dim light, but you will sacrifice some noise! Also note in SCN mode, go to the second page of the menu and select HS Mode for High Speed Video to take those fast action videos that you want to get great slow motion detail in. The speed is 220 frames per second!
460,000 pixel 3 inch LCD, which extends and swivels. You can even take a picture of yourself and see what it is going to look like before you take the shot. Just extend the screen and rotate it 180 degrees.
DIFFERENT COLOR MODES = Page 132 of manual
The camera has several different color modes.
STANDARD: The standard setting
DYNAMIC: The saturation and contrast are increased.
NATURE: Brighter red, green and blue. Enhanced beauty of nature.
SMOOTH: The contrast is lowered for smoother and clearer color.
VIBRANT : Higher saturation and contrast than DYNAMIC.
Makes the colors snap out at you!
There are a couple of others.
To Set the COLOR MODE go to P or A or S or M mode on the main dial, press MENU, then FILM MODE, then push the right button on the MENU SET switch to cycle through the various color modes. Once in a mode, scroll down and set the CONTRAST, SHARPNESS, SATURATION, and NOISE REDUCTION. Once set, press the MENU button again to save it.
By going to the FILM MODE (MENU, REC MODE, Page 1, FILM MODE) you are able to customize your setting of CONTRAST, SHARPNESS, SATURATION, and NOISE REDUCTION and set it on a custom menu. Just select your settings and continue scrolling down to Memory and set your custom menu there.
It has a flash shoe, and uses Panasonic Flashes. There are three to choose from but they can get real expensive! Panasonic DMW-FL360 External Flash (GN36) for Panasonic L1 DSLR and FZ50 Digital Camera
, Panasonic DMW-FL500 TTL External Flash for Panasonic L1 DSLR and FZ50 Digital Camera
AVCHD Video, either 1080i, or 720p, 60 frames per second, or Motion JPEG. The video in 1080 or 720 AVCHD can be processed and played in Windows 7 Media Player and does not skip or flicker. The video is very clear and looks outstanding. Also there is no time limit in these AVCHD modes in the camera. It will take the video till the memory card is full.
I have read on some reviews that the video is jumpy and simply not good. This is because they are probably using older computers. I had this problem with my old computer as well. It would not play HD at all and some of the higher settings of regular video would be jumpy and not good. This is because your computer is just not fast enough to play HD video. First of all, you need a HD video monitor. You need a good fast graphics card and a fast computer. If it doesn't play on your computer it is not the camera's fault. This camera has outstanding HD video. It simply looks awesome! Windows 7 Media Player works great with AVCHD movie files.
Can use teleconverter lenses with adapter Lens Adapter
, which allows use of 55mm lenses. Olympus TCON-1.7x Telephoto Converter Lens
Can use External Mike if needed
The selector is on top of the camera, next to the Main Dial.
It allows selection of 2 fps (frames per second), 5 fps, 11 fps, 40 fps, or 60 fps. In 40 and 60 fps the camera uses an electronic shutter, not a mechanical one. It uses a mechanical shutter on all speeds 11 fps and under. At 40 fps, the picture size is 5M and at 60 fps the picture size is 3.5m. The camera will take 5 fps pictures with continuous Auto Focus!
I was able to take 15 pictures straight in just over a second at the picture size of 14mp in the 11 fps mode. In the 40 and 60 fps mode the camera sounds like a high tech machine gun! WOW!
There has been a lot written about the poor picture quality of this camera and I checked it out thoroughly. First of all, I usually set the ISO to manual and set it to 100. That is where you will always get the best picture. I did the same for my FZ35. If used in ISO Auto, I would set the limit to ISO 400. These cameras are noisy if you let the ISO get up too high. This camera is not any worse or better than the FZ35. I took some pictures inside at night with available lighting. The first pictures I took in the iA (Intelligent Auto) Mode. The pictures looked all right, but were noisy. The second set of pictures I took was in Aperture Priority with the aperture set to maximum (f/2.8) and they look a lot cleaner with much less noise. The ISO was set to 100. If you want the best possible pictures set the ISO low and use either P (Program) or A (Aperture) or S (Shutter) or M (Manual) Modes. It is the same with the FZ35. No different there.
I did a test. I took one picture in the iA mode and the second in the A (Aperture) Mode, with the Aperture set to maximum , which was f/3.4 at zoom 3X. The picture in Aperture Mode had a lot less noise. I posted the pictures on line and the link to see them is in the comments section.
The bottom line: The FZ100 takes a great picture! Just use one of the priority modes and keep your ISO low. The pictures are in some ways better than the pictures I took with the FZ35. The colors of the FZ100 look more accurate than the FZ35. I compared these pictures pixel peeping like mad, blowing up the pictures a lot to see the difference. I like the FZ100 pictures better. Just look at the writing on top of the drill or the SKIL logo on the screwdriver. Next to the SKIL logo is a trademark R. Can't read it in the FZ35 picture. Look at the drill bits. They look way sharper in the FZ100 picture. Check it out for yourself. Don't believe what I say. Make your own determination. Go to the link in the comments section, which takes you to flickr, blow up the pictures to original size and judge for yourself. The only way I could judge one camera's pictures over the other is to blow them way up. At normal picture size there is no way you could pick one over the other . There just isn't that much difference. Some people are saying they can see the difference in quality. I don't see it and fail to see how they could see any difference in quality between these two cameras at a normal picture display size with both cameras set up exactly the same way. The pictures are definitely more noisy in the iA mode even with the ISO set to 100.
Check out other FZ100 pictures on the flickr website. Just go there and do a search for the PANASONIC DMC-FZ100. There are bunches of great photos. Some of them are simply stunning! Some of the insect pictures are amazing!
The camera has excellent stabilization. I was able to take great clear (not blurry) hand held pictures of a sign, at about 100 yards away in my yard. The camera set to 10mp and the zoom set at 37.9, and it was a late afternoon on a sunny day.
If you use this camera to print 8X10 photos, there is really no need to set the picture size for any higher than 10mp. As a matter of fact the camera says if you print 8 X 10, the recommended setting is 5mp. I used to print excellent quality 8 X 10 and larger pictures with a 6mp DSLR camera. In the camera at 14mp mode, it says that size is for prints 16 X 20 inches. For 10mp the size is 11 X 14 inches.
Set the flash to come on any time the flash is opened. That way when you need or want a flash just press the flash button to open the flash . A lot of times it is proper to use the flash even during the day to fill in shadows. Go to MENU, REC MODE, MENU 4, FLASH, and select the one with only the flash icon. (by the way, to change from one page to the next in MENU, just pull the zoom lever to the right. Each time you pull it right it will advance one page. To go down, pull the zoom lever to the left).
Turn on the Continuous AF Mode in the Motion Picture (video) Mode. To do this, go to MENU, MOTION PICTURE, CONTINUOUS AF, and select ON. That way it will focus as you zoom.
I noticed the pictures reviewed on the LCD with flash look dim when viewed, but they look fine with my picture software. I don't know why this happens.
The Olympus TCON 1.7X converter works best when the camera is zoomed to 7X to the max of 37.9X in the 10mp mode. You have to be zoomed to about 7X or more to stop the vignetting.
WHAT I DON"T LIKE:
I don't like having to buy Panasonic Batteries at $60 a pop. It ticks me off that they don't allow aftermarket batteries to be used. I had that problem with my FZ35 as well till I downloaded and installed a earlier firmware version. I did order one battery from Ebay from a Hong Kong dealer for cheap. I will post if it works.
I also don't like the REAR DIAL on the camera. It seems cheap and doesn't work all that well. It seems to turn hard and if you push on it a little bit it changes the mode on you.
I like the camera bag, Case Logic SLCC-2 Deluxe Camcorder Case, Color: Black and Silver
. It is big enough to hold the camera, the lenses, the batteries, the charger and still room to spare. The price is reasonable.
Well, that's it. Check out my pictures. I will leave the link in the comments section. I am overjoyed at this camera! It is awesome!
Update: 1-19-11 I took pictures with the FZ35 and the FZ100 today and posted them on flickr. Its hard to pick a winner. The color in the FZ100 photos looks better. The higher zoomed pictures with the FZ100 really stand out. Be advised I took those pictures hand held. I probably should have used a tripod or monopod. Check them out for yourself. I left the link in the first comments section. It is on the bottom of the first comment. I took a moon shot of the full moon and it is posted in the same place with the comparison pictures.
Update 1-22-11. Someone sent me an email and asked my why I chose the Panasonic over the Canon. Here's why: I considered both cameras, but here is why I chose the Panasonic. The Canon zooms to 35X and that was important to me. The Panasonic zoomed to 24X, which was a downer. I use video a lot and didn't like that at all. In doing the research on the Panasonic camera I read about I-Zoom, which when turned on makes the zoom in video and 14mp picture mode go to 32X. That leveled the playing field for me for the Panasonic. The Canon does not take video in true HD mode. It only takes video in 1920 X 720 at 30 frames per second. The Panasonic takes true HD video in 1920 X 1080 at 60 frames per second. Plus it has a high speed video mode in which it takes 220 frames per second. Both cameras use the 14mp sensor, which degrades picture quality somewhat, so a draw there. The Panasonic uses a 460,000 pixel LCD and the Canon uses a 230,000 pixel LCD screen. The flash recycle time on the Canon is 10 seconds. On the Panasonic it is almost instant. In fact you can put the camera in the flash burst mode and take 5 really quick flash shots. The killer for me is the Panasonic takes up to 11 pictures per second in the 14mp picture mode and 5 pictures per second in full auto focus mode. The Canon is a deadbeat here. It takes 1.3 shots per second in the normal mode and 0.6 frames per second with auto focus on. Soooooo Slooooowwww! Another reason I didn't take the Canon is the picture mode goes from 14mp to the next size down, which is 7mp. What happened to 10mp? The next picture size after that is 2mp. So disappointing. Another thing, the Panasonic Aperture goes from f/2.8 to f/11 and the Canon is f/2.7 to f/8. All those reasons is why I chose the Panasonic over the Canon, and don't regret it one bit. The Panasonic is simply the better camera!
Update 1-23-11. I posted a full HD 1920 X 1080 video on YouTube showing the full 32X zoom with I-Zoom turned on. The link is at the bottom of the first comment.
Update 1-24-11. I discovered something very important about the camera this morning. I tried to take HD video inside and it seems the picture is always dark in the video mode. I had the camera in Aperture Priority and had the f/ stop set at f/2.8. I don't know if it makes any difference in video recording. I tried setting the ISO to 1600 to make the video lighter, but it did not help. Finally I got an idea. I put the camera in iA (Intelligent Auto) mode and pushed the video record. What a difference!!!! WOW!!!! Now the video is light and looks great inside in low light conditions! So, if you plan on taking a video inside, put the main dial in iA first. It makes a world of difference! That is not in the manual by the way. iA does introduce noise when the lighing is low, but I would rather have some noise in my video and be able to see the action than to have a clean picture that's too dark to watch.
One note: AVCHD HD Video (the video this camera uses) is downloadable directly to YouTube without any conversion. That's nice to know. Many other tips and comments are in the comments section of this review.
You want to know why your pictures look crappy? You are probably in iA Mode (Intelligent Auto). Check the settings in iA mode on page 51 and 52 of the manual. The ISO is preset (and not adjustable) to Intelligent ISO (The ISO sensitivity is adjusted according to the movement of the subject and the brightness), and the MAX ISO SENSITIVITY is preset (and not adjustable) to ISO 1600 (ISO 6400 if MOTION DEBLUR is set to ON!). It's no wonder your pictures are so crappy! Red Eye removal is ON. Zoom Mike is ON. The High ISO Limit is why you are getting crappy pictures. Get out of the iA mode and go to one of the priority (P, A, S, M) modes of the camera. If you are new to photography or just don't want to mess with the camera, just set it in P (Program) mode. The camera will select shutter speed and ISO for you. Push the MENU button and set the ISO to AUTO if you wish, and set the ISO LIMIT to 400. To get the best pictures set the ISO to 100 and not to AUTO. Your pictures will look great and will not be noisy. The best part is you will find yourself really liking this camera! Use the iA mode when you need to take a shot and it was dark and nothing else that you tried worked or you didn't have time to experiment. If you need the to take the shot quick set the camera to iA mode, especially in bad lighting. The camera will take the shot. It will be noisy but it will take the shot.
Update 1-27-11 Posted 6 new comparison shots of the FZ35 and FZ100 camera. The link is posted at the bottom of the first comment.
Update 1-30-11 You can save a still picture while in the video playback mode. To do that, play the video back and view it on the LCD. Pause the video at the point that you want the picture (to pause, hit the top button on the MENU Set toggle switch). Press the MENU button. It asks you "Save this image?" Press YES and you are there. SO easy! It saves the picture in the 2mp picture size on a HD or WVGA video. Page 159 in the manual.
I just ordered a macro lens Raynox DCR 150 - Converter
for this camera. When it comes in I will let you know how well it works. Some of the photos taken in flickr with this lens are SIMPLY STUNNING!
Update 1-31-11 I got the Raynox DCR-150 macro lens in today and all I can say is WOW! It attaches directly to the camera lens. The macro is way way way better and stronger than the macro that comes with the camera. I have posted the link to some pictures I took with it at the bottom of the first comment. HAPPY HAPPY! This lens just knocks it out of the park!
Update 2-1-11 Oh, one thing I forgot to tell you. If you copy all the picture files on your SDHC card to your computer and want to get rid of them, never format the card in your computer. Formatting the card in your computer can corrupt the card and it will not work in your camera anymore. Your computer uses NTFS format and your camera uses FAT32. I have several articles that explain such and will post the links in the first comment area if anyone wants to see them. Always format the SDHC card in the camera. The quickest way to format the card is to go to MENU, scroll down to SETUP, go to PAGE 6 (just turn the zoom lever left two times to go to PAGE 6), scroll down to FORMAT, and push the right button on your MENU toggle switch and select YES to "Delete All Data From the Memory Card".
I also recommend you back up your pictures to a different hard drive for safe keeping. I use a USB hard drive that holds 1.5 Tera bites (1500 Mega Bites). They are fairly inexpensive and can save your butt if your hard drive ever fails. I know. I lost 3000 pictures one time because the computer power supply crashed and took out both my computer hard drives. I had my pictures backed up on both drives. It really hurt! If you go on a long extended trip it is worth it to back up your cards to a card drive. A really good one is a Nexto DI NEXTO eXtreme3 500GB Digital Hi-Speed OTG Backup Storage. Mine holds 500 mega bites. I used it while on vacation in Vietnam for about 3 weeks. I took over 7000 pictures and over 500 videos. This brand of card reader is not cheap, but it is worth every penny. It's really fast too.
Update 2-3-11 I just got a new flash for the camera. It is a Vivitar DF-383. It works great with the FZ100 camera. It works in the TTL mode and shows camera aperture, ISO setting, F/stop, and zoom in mm. It can be used as a slave and has a power saving function. It is a powerful flash (Guide number (ISO 100) 45 meters/148 feet at 85mm position). It also shuts off when the camera is powered down. I posted some photos on Flickr from the flash. The item was 25 feet away and was shot in Aperture Priority, ISO 100 at different zoom settings. The link is at the bottom of the first comment.
Update 2-9-11 A friend of mine just told me about a remote shutter release cable that you can hook up to the camera to take macro or telephoto shots without camera shake. It is so much easier than setting the timer to take the picture every time. He bought his on Ebay. Amazon has the Panasonic cord, but it is really expensive. Panasonic DMW-RSL1 Remote Shutter Release. Here is a much cheaper alternative from Amazon. I will post the link to the product in the first comment.
Update 2-13-11 This is a big time update! I have found that taking HD video inside at night to be pretty disappointing with the FZ100. I took some video in HD with my FZ35 and it looks good. It is plenty bright enough. The FZ100 if set in HD 1080 or 720 the video is really dark. I tried setting the ISO higher. No help. I tried just about everything without any success. The only solution is to set the camera in iA mode. The picture is much brighter, but full of noise.
Well, I found a solution! This makes it much better! Set the camera RECORD MODE to MOTION JPG and REC QUALITY to HD and set the ISO to 400. Wow what a difference! It is soooooooo much better and brighter. It is about the same as my FZ35. The only problem with MOTION JPG is it will only record 8 minutes in this mode. If you choose the WVGA mode instead of HD it will record for 20 minutes. It may not be the best solution but it will allow good videos in low light at night.
Update 2-22-11. I just read an article that says the NOISE REDUCTION is one reason the picture quality on the FZ100 is not as good. It says to shut the Noise Reduction down. Here is how you do that:
Go to one of the shooting modes other than iA. Go to A priority for example. Push the Menu Set button. Select FILM MODE (top one on page 1). Change your mode by pushing the button on the right of the menu set switch. I have mine on VIBRANT. Select whatever mode you want. Then move the highlighter down to Contrast (I use +1), SHARPNESS (I use +1), VIBRANT (I use +1) and NOISE REDUCTION (I use -2). Then push the menu set again and that's it. Turn the NOISE REDUCTION as low as it will go as it will screw up your picture quality.
Update 2-24-11 This comment is going to be about the Vivitar Flash (external flash) on the FZ100. The FZ40 will never get pictures like the ones I am posting because it has no hot shoe and no external flash can be used. The pictures with the camera flash are the only pictures the FZ40 will ever get. Those who have the FZ100, get ready for a pleasant surprise. I took 6 photos. 3 with the camera flash and 3 with the Vivitar DF-383. The first set was at a zoom of 1X. The second set used a zoom of 24X at 30 feet, and the last set was zoomed at 37.9X, and about 38 feet away from the object. The camera was set to Aperture Priority and ISO 100. Feast your eyes on this: Go to the bottom of the first comment for the link.
Update 3-15-11. I know this camera has gobs of zoom, but can you ever get enough? I have the Olympus TCON 1.7X teleconverter. Today I got the Raynox 2.2X teleconverter and did a comparison between the two. If you are a birder or do long range photography you might want to check out this comparison. The explanation and the link to Flickr is in the bottom of my first comment.
Update 3-27-11. I tried using the lens hood a couple of times and didn't like the way it fit. It seemed the fit was loose. After just reading another comment from another review, I tried the lens hood again. This time I turned it a little harder and it clicked. When it clicks it is going to stay put and will not come off. The best part is you can mount the lens hood backwards on the camera. Once again, make sure it clicks. It will not come off by itself. The lens hood in this way will always be with the camera, ready to use, but not in the way of adding filters or close up lenses or polarizing filters.
Noise reduction. This camera needs noise reduction software when taking shots with high ISO. See my bottom of the 1st comment about that to see how great these programs work.
In taking a flash with the built in flash, the camera tends to go up in ISO instead of increasing the flash power which gives very bad picture full of noise. It is therefore important to lock the ISO sensitivity. I would set the ISO to no more than 400, and preferably to 100 and increase the flash power, you see the pictures will be 100 times better. To increase the flash power, set the camera in Aperture Priority (any of the 4 main priorities), push the button above the MENU SET button. If you push it one time it goes to EXPOSURE, push it again and it goes to AUTO BRACKET, push it again and it goes to FLASH. Set the flash to anything from 0.1 to +2 for more power. It makes a big difference! Set it up that way and take a couple of shots and see for yourself. Go ahead, try it out on your camera right now. Take a shot at +1 and another at +2. Don't forget to set it back to its original position when done. Back to exposure. If the pictures look too dark, also increase the EXPOSURE.
Update 4-21-11 A feature that I find invaluable about this camera is the ability to save a picture from a video shot with the camera. What a great feature to have! You shoot a video and find yourself wanting a snapshot of something in the video. You can get that picture! Just play the video back in the camera, and at the point or near the point where you want the snapshot, hit the pause button (the button on top of the MENU SET button). Once paused, you can move forward or backwards by pushing the button to the right and to the left of the MENU SET button. Once you are at the point where you want the picture, push the MENU SET button. It will ask SAVE THIS IMAGE? Highlight YES, and it is done. I will save the picture at a small picture size of 2.0mp.
Update 5-8-11. Don't connect the camera to the computer and risk damaging it. Pull your SDHC card out of the camera (it takes a whole 1/10 second to pull your card out of the camera, just open the door and push on it) and put it into the computer if your computer has a SDHC card reader. The software supplied with the camera will know you put the card into a reader and it will prompt you to download the files, both video and photo. If your computer doesn't have a SDHC card reader, buy a good inexpensive USB card reader. They are only around $15 or so. It is much faster and safer and less hassle to pull your card out of the camera to download the files. Just do it.
Update 7/27/11. This update is a game changer for this camera. It is no longer as weak in dark places, and the inboard flash is enough